Thursday, March 27, 2008

Keepin' it Real

I'm sitting on the grass under the shade of a eucalyptus tree on the Stanford University campus watching the joggers go by while I wait for a taxi to the airport. Work brought me to Palo Alto less than 48 hours after my return from Spain. It's a tight meeting schedule, but its not a bad way to ease back in to the work thing after a week away.

The whole superficial hollywood / Beverly Hills thing aside, the California culture is distinct and something to be admired. Relaxed, but not sleepy. Classy, but not pretentious. Expressive, but not in your face. They keep it real here. 

Yesterday we were transported by an Israeli cab driver who might have enjoyed a successful career as a comedian - in another lifetime. Instead, his life took him through a career with the Israeli government, then to Washington DC (for reasons he chose to exclude), and ultimately to California. He has a regular morning gig driving handicapped kids to school. If there is anything in this world that could help fill a life that has been hampered by a disability, it might be the gift of laughter. I have no doubt that this dude is a major donor. He had a gift. A cross between Cheech, Tom de Louise and Ray Romano, he had the right combination to reduce a van full of stuffed suits to a giggling machine.

On our way to dinner, we stopped for a coffee at what looked to be a credible coffee shop. The blue-haired, black-fingernailed Barista didn't have that in-your-face-caffiene-fueled-starbucks-enthusiasm, which might have been our first clue that coffee wasn't really her thing. But the real giveaway was when she asked us for instructions on how to use the coffee machine. Direct quote: 'which button should I push? I've never used this thing before'. The best part was that she wasn't even phased by the fact that she was employed at a coffee shop and lacking the expertise to make coffee. In fact, she seemed bewildered by the request, leaving us feeling silly for having asked in the first place. 

Walking down University Drive this morning, we were passed by a guy on a skateboard who rolled right into a store. Turned out to be a skateboard store, so I suppose it is not that unusual. But how about this - facebook headquarters were right next door. Just a modest little sign, in lower case letters, on a simple glass facade, next door to a skate shop.
They keeps it real in California.


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